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Google Play Store hits pause on Trump’s Truth Social app

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Google notifies Truth Social of several violations of standard policies, pointing out it lacked the required moderation of user-generated content as users have been found inciting violence.

Former US president Donald Trump’s social media platform Truth Social has not yet been approved for distribution on Alphabet Inc’s Google Play Store due to insufficient content moderation.

The delay, confirmed by a Google spokesperson on Tuesday, marks a setback for the app, which launched in the Apple App Store on February 21. Android phones comprise about 40 percent of the US smartphone market. Without the Google and Apple stores, there is no easy way for most smartphone users to download Truth Social.

“On August 19, we notified Truth Social of several violations of standard policies in their current app submission and reiterated that having effective systems for moderating user-generated content is a condition of our terms of service for any app to go live on Google Play,” Google said in a statement.

Google said it has expressed concerns to Truth Social about violations of its Play Store policies prohibiting content like physical threats and incitement to violence.

‘Censorship-free experience’

Truth Social parent company Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) in a press release said that it has “continuously worked in good faith with Google to ensure that the Truth Social Android App complies with Google’s policies without compromising our promise to be a haven for free speech.”

It added: “Moreover, some of our competitors’ apps are allowed in the Google Play Store despite rampantly violating Google’s prohibition on sexual content and other policies, whereas Truth Social has zero tolerance for sexually explicit content.”

News of the Android delay was first reported by Axios.

Truth Social restored Trump’s presence on social media more than a year after he was banned from Twitter Inc, Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube following the January 6, 2021 US Capitol riots, after he was accused of posting messages inciting violence.

TMTG has pledged to deliver an “engaging and censorship-free experience” on Truth Social, appealing to a base that feels its views around such hot-button topics such as the outcome of the 2020 presidential election have been scrubbed from mainstream tech platforms.

READ MORE: Trump’s ‘Truth’ network hits a roadblock as its funding woes increase

Source: TRT

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Inflation clouds Black Friday sales in US shopping season

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US retailers unveiled a trove of fresh promotions on Friday, as they try to coax sales from reticent shoppers whose holiday cheer has been tempered by inflation and worries over a softening economy.

Cautious shoppers have hunted for the best deals at stores and online as retailers offered new Black Friday discounts to entice consumers eager to start buying holiday gifts but weighed down by inflation.

Due to elevated prices for food, rent, gasoline and other essentials, many people were more selective and reluctant to spend unless there was a big sale on Friday.

Some were dipping more into savings, turning to “buy now, pay later” services that allow payment in instalment, or running up their credit cards at a time when the Federal Reserve is hiking rates to cool the US economy.

This year’s trends are a contrast from a year ago when consumers were buying early for fear of not getting what they needed amid supply-network clogs.

Stores didn’t have to discount much because they were struggling to bring in items.

Online discount rates were 31 percent on Thanksgiving, up 7 percent from the previous year, according to Salesforce data.

Shoppers wait to enter the Nike store at the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee. (AFP)

High customer traffic

Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, where discounts included 60 percent off fashion jewelry and 50 percent off select shoes, was bustling with shoppers early on Friday.

The traffic was “significantly larger” on Black Friday compared to the previous two years because shoppers feel more comfortable in crowds, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said.

Customer traffic was also higher than last year at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, according to Jill Renslow, executive vice president of business development of the shopping centre.

She said 10,000 people were at the sprawling mall during the first hour after the 7 am opening, though inflation prompted many shoppers to figure out what to buy before showing up.

Major retailers, including Walmart and Target, stuck with their pandemic-era decision to close stores on Thanksgiving Day, moving away from doorbusters and pushing discounts on their websites.

Shoppers walk the aisles of Walmart for Black Friday deals in Dunwoody, Georgia. (AFP)

Spike in online sales

Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of retail at Salesforce, said Salesforce data showed online sales spiked in the evening during the holiday this year, suggesting people went from feasting to phone shopping.

Shoppers spent $5.3 billion online on Thanksgiving Day, up 2.9 percent from the holiday last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which monitors spending across websites. Adobe expects that online buying on Black Friday will hit $9 billion, up just 1 percent from a year ago.

Black Friday saw some of the labour unrest that has rippled through the retail industry over the past year.

A coalition of trade unions and advocacy organisations are coordinating strikes and walkouts at Amazon facilities in more than 30 countries under a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay.”

READ MORE: Amazon: Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 biggest online sales ever

Fears of mass shootings

At Walmart stores, some employees had Wednesday’s deadly shooting at a company store in Virginia in the back of their minds.

Jude Anani, a 35-year-old who works at a Walmart store in Columbia, Maryland, said the company offers training on how to react in such circumstances, but he would like to see more protection.

He was happy to see police officer standing outside the store, as is typical on Black Friday, and wished that was the case “most of the time during the year.”

Analysts consider the five-day Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, a key barometer of shoppers’ willingness to spend.

The two-month period between Thanksgiving and Christmas represents about 20 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales.

Source: TRT

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Russia targets extra profits of energy firms

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LNG exporters will face a 34% tax, while Gazprom will have to pay nearly $30 billion to the state budget

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Monday which will raise taxes on the country’s energy industry in 2023-2025. Russian oil and gas firms reported record profits this year, despite sanctions.

The profit tax for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporters has been raised to 34%. The higher levy concerns LNG producers that exported at least one shipment by the end of 2022.

According to the document, energy giant Gazprom will owe an additional 1.8 trillion rubles ($29.6 billion) to the state budget in 2023-2025.

In addition to that, the law provides for an adjustment in calculating the severance tax on natural gas from January 1, 2023, and a temporary increase of mineral extraction tax rates by 380 rubles per ton of coal.

The tax changes are expected to add an additional 3 trillion rubles ($50 billion) to the state coffers over the next two years.

Putin also approved a new rule that will set a limit on oil and gas revenues that can be allocated to finance budget expenditures at 8 trillion rubles ($131 billion) a year in 2023-2025. Starting from 2026, the figure is to be indexed by 4% yearly. This is expected to ensure the stability of budget spending and minimize the impact of the volatility of oil and gas revenues on the economy.

READ MORE: Russia’s Gazprom to pay record dividend
Earlier this month, it was reported that the Russian budget received 41.4% fewer taxes in September than in March. Analysts believe the drop is due to a decrease in Russia’s energy exports because of Western sanctions. At the same time, energy giants like Gazprom have reported record profits this year.

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Russia pursues de-dollarization in trade with China: official

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Russia and China have been promoting settlements in their national currencies other than the U.S. dollar and euro, said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak on Friday.

Energy trade between the two countries has been steadily growing, up 64 percent in monetary terms so far this year and they are working on expanding the share of national currencies in energy transactions, Novak said in a TV interview, according to Russia Today (RT) .

“We are switching to settlements in rubles and yuan for the energy resources supplied,” Novak said.

The national currencies were also used to purchase various types of equipment from China, he said.

China has been Russia’s largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years, according to official data.

Source(s): CGTN

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